Orlando responses that missed the mark

Published 7:45 pm Friday, June 17, 2016

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

It has happened yet again. We awoke Sunday morning to the news of another mass shooting. Like most Sunday mornings, I was rather busy and could only check my phone intermittently for news.

Early in the morning, the headline was that many people had been “wounded.” I had a sinking feeling that it would get worse. Sure enough, later in the morning, it said “20” were dead. By noon, it was confirmed that 50 people were dead, making it the worst mass shooting in American history.

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As the afternoon wore on, there were a variety of responses that badly missed the point.

Some were quick to point to the issue of gun control. Personally, I would have no problem with some form of reasonable gun control that upholds the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. But does anyone actually believe that gun control laws would have prevented this tragedy?

There is no way that gun control laws are going to stop highly motivated mass killers. Some way or another, they will procure firearms, make bombs, or figure out some other diabolical method of mass murder.

We have to face the brutal reality of the situation: If someone wants to kill a bunch of people badly enough and doesn’t care whether they die in the process, they can do it. In fact, they can do it without much difficulty.

Others were quick to point to the issue of religion. The killer was Muslim and claimed allegiance to the Islamic State.

But we have seen that mass killers are motivated by all kinds of things. Often, they are just deranged loners, like the Sandy Hook killer. The Charleston killer was racist. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was an anti-government extremist. On and on it goes.

Even if Muslim extremism were to somehow disappear, there would still be enough mentally ill people and hate-filled ideologies to produce mass killers.

In the case of Donald Trump, he was quick to point to himself (surprise, surprise). While the nation was grieving, and dead bodies still littered the scene of the shooting, he sent forth a tweet that began with these words: “Appreciate the congrats for being right.”

What kind of a leader would do this? What kind of a person would do this, except a flat-out narcissist?

If we are really looking for solutions, we should look to what God says in His Word. In Romans 12:21, God gives us this command: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Rather than sinking into the abyss of hatred, those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus should be all the more determined to spread his love in this fallen world.

What if the gospel message of God’s love for us in Christ could have somehow gotten through and taken root in the people who ended up perpetrating these mass killings?

What if they had heard and received the good news that Christ, through his death for sinners and his resurrection from the dead, has provided a way for us to be joyfully reconciled to God and to others?

No one who has experienced God’s love could carry out such acts of hate. As Jesus’ followers, let us rededicate our lives to spreading His love.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.